The Creative Archive: Ottawa / Gatineau Edition – An art adventure across the Rideau Canal
As promised in our last communique, we are kicking off the Creative Archive with a trip to the Southwestern Ontario and Outaouis regions, where we will be toggling between Ottawa and Gatineau, on a quest to discover the connections between the art in these locales.
Whether looking for a “cool” neighbourhood to stay or diversifying your work from home routine, Wellington Village, situated in the west end of Ottawa, is a great place to set-up. A quick connection from VIA Rail to Tremblay Station and head west to Tunney’s Pasture Station. Ten minute walk and you are on the Wellington St. strip.
You can find a number of spaces stocking “Canadian made” here; such as Victoire and Kindred. Two great spots to scope if you are a maker yourself. NAK Gallery is a short walk away, and is a great source for regional artists. Recommended nosh in the area include; Supply & Demand for dinner and a visit to the Parkdale Market to support local growers.
Tucked into the back of a warehouse style building on Parkdale Avenue is Drip Coffee House. A multi-hyphenate cafe, gallery and community hub — a perfect place to bump into local creatives. On this visit, the gallery wall was showcasing the work of Yoni Sambo, a local portrait and fashion photographer. The solo exhibition, titled Liwanag, is a curated series highlighting the importance of Asian representation. A quick peak to the contributors list on the exhibition description and several local creatives are added to my ever evolving list.
Dip across the river to Gatineau to experience the free urban public art trail, Sentier Culturel. An initiative put on by the Ville de Gatineau, Ministry of Culture and Communications of Quebec (MCCQ), and a host of partners, in an effort to provide accessible art to residents and visitors alike. The path is situated in alignment with a bike and walking path, making it an easy traverse.
The trail may be closed for the season, but no time like the present to contact the Ville or MCCQ to learn about 2023 efforts and watchout for public calls for art.
Back on the Ottawa side, the National Gallery of Canada provides a strong anchor point to the Byward Market area. During this trip an exhibit dedicated to Canadian artists, General Idea was the draw. For those unfamiliar, General Idea was a trio of artists who aimed to critique the art world with their position on the role of the “institution” woven cleverly throughout their work. A variety of print based works, curated alongside key installations, showcase the breadth of their 25 year career span, including a nod to their most commonly known work “AIDS”(1987) — a rework of Robert Indiana’s pop-artwork “Love”.
The exhibit is a great source of inspiration for overt, subversive, politically minded and graphic arts.
On a more local scale, The Annexe Gallery, within the Ottawa Art Gallery, is a fantastic place to discover regional artists. With a mission to promote artists from the Ottawa-Gatineau area, the Annexe plays an important role in showcasing and selling the works of the artists it presents. Entrance to the OAG & Annexe Gallery is free or by donation, removing any barrier to entry, and highlighting the institution’s approach to furthering the accessibility of art. The Jackson Cafe, within the OAG, also provides space to tuck in to a couple hours of work or meet a client uninterrupted.
The greatest discovery on this adventure was the realization and recognition that while connected by geography, these two cross-cultural siblings are uniquely themselves. The investment in arts & culture is evident on both sides. With exhibitions and activities readily available to partake in, one can’t be shy about noticing the differences in access at the municipal and federal scales. I was left wondering how we ensure one of the tenants of future cultural investment is accessibility. Art plays an important role in opening our mind to new ideas and experiences, and thus should be available to the masses to spark conversation and joy.
Amy Peebles is a curator & producer residing in Hamilton, ON.
Urban planner by education, treasure hunter by choice, and always energized by the act of discovery. Amy is the founder of creative studio Regional Archive and considers herself a child of the world.